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The impact of high and growing government debt on economic growth: an empirical investigation for the euro area

Listed author(s):
  • Checherita-Westphal, Cristina
  • Rother, Philipp

This paper investigates the average impact of government debt on per-capita GDP growth in twelve euro area countries over a period of about 40 years starting in 1970. It finds a non-linear impact of debt on growth with a turning point—beyond which the government debt-to-GDP ratio has a deleterious impact on long-term growth—at about 90-100% of GDP. Confidence intervals for the debt turning point suggest that the negative growth effect of high debt may start already from levels of around 70-80% of GDP, which calls for even more prudent indebtedness policies. At the same time, there is evidence that the annual change of the public debt ratio and the budget deficit-to-GDP ratio are negatively and linearly associated with per-capita GDP growth. The channels through which government debt (level or change) is found to have an impact on the economic growth rate are: (i) private saving; (ii) public investment; (iii) total factor productivity (TFP) and (iv) sovereign long-term nominal and real interest rates. From a policy perspective, the results provide additional arguments for debt reduction to support longer-term economic growth prospects. JEL Classification: H63, O40, E62, E43

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File URL: http://www.ecb.europa.eu/pub/pdf/scpwps/ecbwp1237.pdf
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Paper provided by European Central Bank in its series Working Paper Series with number 1237.

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Date of creation: Aug 2010
Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbwps:20101237
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  1. Alberto F. Alesina & Silvia Ardagna, 2009. "Large Changes in Fiscal Policy: Taxes Versus Spending," NBER Working Papers 15438, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Reinhart, Carmen M. & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2010. "Growth in a Time of Debt," CEPR Discussion Papers 7661, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "The Aftermath of Financial Crises," NBER Working Papers 14656, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Joshua Aizenman & Kenneth Kletzer & Brian Pinto, 2007. "Economic Growth with Constraints on Tax Revenues and Public Debt: Implications for Fiscal Policy and Cross-Country Differences," NBER Working Papers 12750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Schclarek, Alfredo, 2004. "Debt and Economic Growth in Developing and Industrial Countries," Working Papers 2005:34, Lund University, Department of Economics.
  6. Arne Risa Hole, 2006. "A comparison of approaches to estimating confidence intervals for willingness to pay measures," Working Papers 008cherp, Centre for Health Economics, University of York.
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  8. Douglas W. Elmendorf & N. Gregory Mankiw, 1998. "Government debt," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1998-09, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    • Elmendorf, Douglas W. & Gregory Mankiw, N., 1999. "Government debt," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 25, pages 1615-1669 Elsevier.
  9. Salvador Barrios & Per Iversen & Magdalena Lewandowska & Ralph Setzer, 2009. "Determinants of intra-euro area government bond spreads during the financial crisis," European Economy - Economic Papers 2008 - 2015 388, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
  10. J. E. Meade, 1958. "Is The National Debt A Burden?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(2), pages 163-183.
  11. Krugman, Paul, 1988. "Financing vs. forgiving a debt overhang," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 253-268, November.
  12. David Alan Aschauer, 2000. "Do states optimize? Public capital and economic growth," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 34(3), pages 343-363.
  13. repec:zbw:rwidps:0039 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Thomas Laubach, 2009. "New Evidence on the Interest Rate Effects of Budget Deficits and Debt," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(4), pages 858-885, 06.
  15. Cohen, Daniel, 1993. "Low Investment and Large LDC Debt in the 1980's," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 437-449, June.
  16. Gilles Saint-Paul, 1992. "Fiscal Policy in an Endogenous Growth Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(4), pages 1243-1259.
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